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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Everyday Life

Health and Sickness

By Patricia Barton

X-Ray Campaign, 1957 Since the dawn of the industrial age, Glasgow has been synonymous with poor health. In 1950 the city had the highest tuberculosis mortality in Europe; in 2000 the highest heart disease and lung cancer mortality.

Victoria Infirmary The high concentrations of health problems were often intimately connected to the impetus behind municipal efforts to tackle Glasgow's inner city slums. The loss of younger families to new towns resulted in a city of marked health contrasts: strong health indicators in wealthier districts contrasted poorly elsewhere with an ageing population with high concentrations of social deprivation. Unfortunately, poor planning and construction of peripheral estates, including Drumchapel and Castlemilk, recreated housing conditions earlier associated with the slums whereby dampness and condensation increased the incidence of respiratory disease. Yet falling population reduced the revenue available to combat health problems. Nor did constant restructuring of the NHS create conditions conducive to formulating coherent long- term health strategies. The 1974 reforms, for example, which created the Greater Glasgow Health Board, stripped control of public health from Glasgow Corporation, abolishing the previously influential post of Medical Officer of Health.

"Fit in Sport in 93" Despite such problems, Glasgow's health authorities have continued the 19th century tradition of pioneering health projects. Famous examples include the screening of c. 700,000 people in the one month Mass X-Ray Campaign of 1957, vastly reducing tuberculosis incidence. In 1973 Glasgow was the first city to initiate an anti-smoking campaign, controversial with some major local employers – tobacco companies. The new century has been inaugurated with provision in schools of free fruit, breakfast clubs and free entry to sport facilities in a major scheme to improve the health of the next generation of Glasgow's citizens.

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